Efforts for DACA students pays off for Immigration Professionals attorney Jessica Piedra

Many public universities and community colleges across Missouri have begun enrolling students with Deferred Action status. Five years ago the Missouri legislature debated a law that would have barred undocumented students from attending Missouri public universities and colleges. As a member of Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, Ms. Piedra helped to change the language of the bill so it didn't prohibit schools from enrolling the students. The advocates thought they had won, but schools administratively barred the students anyway. Still a student at the UMKC School of Law, she met with university officials along with community activists such as Judy Ancel, to urge them to follow the plain meaning of the law that had been enacted. In their opinion, it did and does not prevent enrollment of undocumented students. After graduating from UMKC, she joined their Hispanic Advisory Board. Since then, along with advocates across the state, she has continued to press universities to accept undocumented students. Nonetheless, universities, afraid of losing their funding, refused. This all changed last year when President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. At Immigration Professionals, a non-profit law firm that serves families, Jessica Piedra has helped over 150 young people to obtain Deferred Action status and move closer to achieving their dreams. But her work didn’t stop there: Piedra had kept advocating for undocumented youth across Missouri. At the April 2013 meeting of the UMKC Hispanic Advisory Board with the UMKC Chancellor, Leo Morton, she presented a fact sheet showing how the state law and the federal program worked together. The state law required that students be “lawfully present” and it was clear that the government guidance stated that Deferred Action students are "lawfully present". After the University of Missouri System’s attorney reviewed this, all four universities in the system were instructed to start enrolling Deferred Action students immediately! With Ms. Piedra’s help UMKC took the lead on making this state-wide change. What is more, UMKC has decided to enroll Deferred Action students at in-state tuition rates both for Missouri residents and those who would otherwise qualify for their “metro-rate” tuition, residents of Atchison, Douglas, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, Osage, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. Likewise, local community colleges are now enrolling Deferred Action students and all students are eligible for the A+ scholarship. The doors are opening for our immigrant youth in Missouri and beyond as institutions come to understand the Deferred Action program. Jessica Piedra has also advocated for Deferred Action students to get enrolled into programs and even helped one young woman save her full ride scholarship to a Doctoral program. She is committed to helping all immigrant youth to achieve their dreams.

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